If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Barcelona in the week of the 24th September, you’ll know from «La Mercé» festival week, that the patron saint of Barcelona is Our Lady of Mercy. There is however, a second saint who is perhaps a little forgotten – and it’s easy to see why. Read on to find out more!
The 12th February is the date of the second – perhaps not as well known – Patron Saint of Barcelona, Santa Eulalia. She has also been given the name of the patron of children. Dating as far back as the year 303AD, details are sketchy depending on who you speak to, but the legend lives on. 13-year-old Eulalia (affectionately known as Laia) protested to the then governor of Barcelona, Dacian, about the persecution of the Christians. Dacian was so enraged by the girl’s outspoken views that he ordered a punishment for each of her years, which were all extremely barbaric. The 13 punishments are not all clear, but what is clear from all accounts is that she never spoke a word during each torture. The poor girl was maimed with hooks, put in a barrel with broken glass and nails and thrown down a hill, hot oil was put on her wounds, she was whipped, placed in a box with fleas, and finally nailed to a cross in the place that is now Plaça Padró.
You would think that would be enough for the title of saint to be bestowed on the little girl, but the story doesn’t stop there.
Until the 9th century, her body lay in the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, when it was decided that her body be moved to the cathedral. A great procession of the city’s wealthy population (Eulalia herself was daughter of a rich family in the high part of town) followed the pall bearers until the gates of the city. Legend has it that the whole procession stopped, that the coffin had become too heavy to carry through the gates. Prayer ensued, and an angel descended and pointed a finger at one of the Canons, who admitted to have taken a finger from Eulalia’s body, as a keepsake. Once the finger was returned, the procession continued and to this day Santa Eulalia’s body rests – intact – in the cathedral’s crypt. The city’s gates were re-named «Puerta de Santa Eulalia» (gate of Santa Eulalia) until the city walls were torn down, and the spot is still called «Plaça de l’Àngel» or Angel Square.
The church at Plaça Padró (which used to house local radio station) has been undergoing extensive renovation work – I think part of it is to become a nursery – and locals have petitioned for the body to be moved again, to what they say would be her rightful burial place, and for the Plaça to be re-named. However, in this case and considering the history, I think it’s perhaps better to leave Poor Eulalia where she is!
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